Friday, May 29, 2015

Review of Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires by Sophie Barnes


Title/Author: Lady Sarah Sinful Desires (Secrets At Thorncliff Manor #1) by Sophie Barnes
Publisher/Date published: Avon Books, May 7th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: Welcome to Thorncliff Manor, where London's elite mix, mingle, and may even find their heart's desire...

There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff's conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him?

Lady Sarah would make the perfect bride for a peer — if not for a tarnished past that she's hiding from the ton. A stay at Thorncliff Manor was meant to help her plan for her future, not fall in love. Yet Christopher's kisses are irresistible, his gallantry enticing. When her secret stands to be revealed, will the truth ruin their dreams of happiness?

So I was very much in need of a good historical romance when I started this book, and Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires did not disappoint!

I really like Sophie Barnes' writing style and I kinda liked that this wasn't set in London for a change. I mean, don't get me wrong, I LOVE reading books set in London with all of the ton present and balls and calling on each other and EVERYTHING. But this setting of Thorncliff and the houseparty was very charming as well.

I liked Sarah, she's smart and funny and she has a pet hamster. I mean, hello, she's living in historical England and she has a PET HAMSTER. That is just awesome in my book. Also: hamsters are great pets, I had one myself when I was younger. She's obviously not made all the right choices in her past and back then you were judged harshly for that. By your parents as well as the rest of the world. She has a major sense of duty and loyalty to a family, that in my opinion doesn't deserve said loyalty. I was so wishing for just the teensiest bit of warmth or love to show from her father and stepmother, but there was ZERO affection there. I don't really understand this, I mean, sure I can get being angry with her at first, but after two years? Can you not get over this and try to give her a GOOD future instead of one with a hateful and disgusting man in it? That was some bad parenting right there.

But I did really like Christoper and Sarah together. They have great chemistry and banter and I loved to see them become friends and then something more. There's mutual respect and affection that grows naturally and I really liked seeing their lovestory unfold. I also thought Christopher's reaction to Sarah's secret was realistic. It wasn't perfect, but it felt real for the time they lived in.
And OMG, how much did I love Christopher's family! His sisters and his mom are perfection. They're the ultimate family, teasing each other, telling each other how it is, but there's so much heart there! I would have loved to spend even more time with them!

Sophie Barnes spins an interesting tale about a lady with a less than perfect past and how she goes on from there. Obviously there's a happily ever after, because this is a historical romance novel after all, but the road to getting to said happily ever after was very much enjoyable and there was a connection between Sarah and Christopher that made me root for them and that's basically what I want from a romance novel!

My rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review of The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler


Title/Author: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
Publisher/Date published: Simon Pulse, June 2nd 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom — until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry — except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy — insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life.

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though — swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them...

So there's a reason why people are always like "EEEE! NEW BOOK BY SARAH OCKLER!!" And The Summer of Chasing Mermaids further confirms my opinion that it is a legit reason.

Sarah Ockler has a way of storytelling that just has me sucked into the story and made me feel like I was right there in the moment with all of these characters. She let me experience the pain Elyse was feeling and the disappointment, but also the hope that slowly creeps in. I was right there with her, and I love it when an author manages to put me IN the story instead of just on the sidelines. I loved Elyse for losing her voice and then finding it, and BECAUSE she's so obviously not perfect in her way of dealing with what happened. She's so much a human being that I could imagine walking into the room, grabbing my hand and telling me something with one of her Sharpies.

I loved the lyrical quality of Sarah Ockler's writing, and especially the voice she gives to Elyse. It was beautiful and at times I just wanted to savour the words. But I also needed very much to keep on reading to find out what was going to happen next, because there's a plot that is not just there as backdrop, it's a real, living thing, with vivid characters and a town that I could fall in love with. And even the characters that we never really 'meet', Elyse's family, are very much a real personality in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids.

But so much of my love goes out to the ones we do meet: Kirby, who becomes both a friend and another sister to Elyse and is a very bighearted person that I just want to hug. Christian, who is obviously the love interest and a beautiful one, who has so much love for his brother and turns out to have so much more depth than you would imagine. And Sebastian, Christian's adorable 6 (and a half!) year old brother, who believes in mermaids and doesn't think it's only girls who should get to dress up as them, he is the cutest little boy ever and I just wanted to cuddle him and read him stories forever.

There's a lot at stake with the Pirate Regatta, there's the town's future to think about and some ugly family stuff that made me sad for the people dealing with it. Throughout this summer, Elyse and the others discover a lot about themselves and others and it was truly beautiful to see them experience these things and grow because of it. This little town has a lot of heart.

Just like with The Book of Broken Heart, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is so much more than a cute contemporary read. It deals with loss, the loss of your dreams and a future that was within your grasp. Losing your voice and losing yourself. Losing the thing that you think defines you. But it also tells us about family, the good and the bad. About finding yourself, about accepting people for who they are and fighting for their right to be themselves. About friendship and love and everything. And I fiercely loved every minute of reading about all of these things.

My rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Plan To Have In My Beach Bag This Summer


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by my other blog The Broke and the Bookish

As I'm going on vacation next Tuesday (to Thailand, YAY!), here's what's on my list to read on one (or more) of their gorgeous beaches:

1. Valiant by Sarah McGuire: I found out late that the release date of this one had been moved up, so I'm reading it now, around its original release date. Also: YAY FAIRYTALE RETELLING!

2. The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: seems fitting, as I read The Queen of the Tearling last year on vacation ;) Also, I think fantasy novels make for perfect beach reads.

3. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella: I LOVE Sophie Kinsella and I'm really curious about her first YA novel!

4. Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout: This sounds super cute! Boarding schools! And a comparison to Anna and the French Kiss! How can this possibly go wrong?

5. The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi: there's been a lot of buzz about this one, and I'm really excited to read it! It sounds like it could be kinda awesome.

6. Get Dirty by Gretchen McNeil: I read Get Even last year and really enjoyed it, this will serve as my Pretty Little Liars fix until it starts up again :)

7. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West: KASIE WEST! ULTIMATE BEACH OR ANYWHERE ELSE READ. ALWAYS.

8. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: I've heard this is amazing and steamy and this sounds like a perfect beach read to me. Or anywhere. Also: it's Sarah J. Maas, obviously I'm reading this as soon as possible. Quite possibly on the airplane, so there's not possibility of damaging it around sand/water/etc.

9. Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik: I like Claire LaZebnik's books and any adaptation of Emma will forever be read.

10. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: I've heard this is supercute and fluffy and happiness inducing. The only thing that will be missing if I read this on the beach, are Oreo's, cause I think it might be a little too hot for chocolate...

What's going to be in your beach bag? Tell me about your holiday plans!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Review of Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos


Title/Author: Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos
Publisher/Date published: HMH Books for Young Readers, May 5th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?

So I'm a big fan of tv shows such as America's Next Top Model and Project Runway and all of those things. I'm fascinated by the fashion industry, even though I'm not really a fashionista myself, but I do like pretty clothes. So obviously this dystopian that deals with said fashion industry sounded endlessly entertaining to me!

And I really liked Material Girls, it was a pretty fun read, and it made me REALLY want to buy pretty dresses (which is not really the point of this novel). I liked both Marla and Ivy, though I was kinda wishing Ivy would grow a bit more of a spine, but well, she's a flawed character and I could relate to her struggle. Ivy really wants to be a better person, but at the same time, she doesn't want to lose her spotlight and wants to take care of her family and it's hard for her to see a way to combine all of these things.
And Marla goes from a blind rule follower to a bit of a rebel, but the one problem I had with her character is that it never really felt like she was making the decision to go in this new direction. It all just sort of happened to her.

The world that Elaine Dimopoulos has created was really interesting and it made me think about our society and how we're very much a consumerist society and while I happily join in on this, I can see the downside and the wastefulness of it. The whole way of controlling society by giving 8th-graders a career path they can't really change was awful, and to make children that age already work because otherwise they will be too OLD to be in style? Wow. Just. Wow. I did kinda love seeing how Elaine Dimopoulos also showed us the consequences of this sort of program for the kids who don't get picked for a creative career path and the confusion that someone who's not in this line of work can still enjoy the job they do. The whole perception of things is off and it was a bit mindblowing to read about Ivy asking a doctor is she was happy in her line of work, which to her was inconceivable.

To go along with this storyline, there was a pretty cute lovestory, I liked the tentative romance blooming between the two.
Because the book is not all that long, and we see the story unfold from both Marla and Ivy's POV, it lacked a bit of depth to their characters. I did feel like I knew both of them, but I would have liked to have a little more insight into their motives and what makes them the way they are. They have a backstory, and it's ok, but I would have just liked a bit more.
I did like that there's not big happily ever after where the whole dystopian society has been disbanded and all the problems have been solved because of a couple of teenagers rebelling. Because that's just not very realistic and such things take time, so I appreciate where Elaine Dimopoulos left us at the end of Material Girls.

My rating: 3,5 stars

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review of A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin


Title/Author: A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House #1) by Kathleen Baldwin
Publisher/Date published: Tor Teen, May 19th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies — plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible — until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads — or their hearts...

You probably all know that I have a thing for historical fiction/historical romance. And basically the title of this book sold me, I mean, what's not to like about a school for unusual girls??

I really liked Georgiana, she's a character that I could definitely relate to, not interested in conforming to society's expectations and a scientist at heart. I love that she can't help herself when she thinks 'what if', it's made her jump out of a window trying to fly and accidentally set her father's stables on fire cause she wasn't allowed to do her expiriment inside the house in a safer environment. She's smart and driven and doesn't take no for an answer, and she also has her vulnerabilities, which made me like her even more.

So Georgiana and I were doing pretty well and then we enter Stranje House and there's a whole extra set of characters for me to be intrigued by. I mean, the other girls there are REALLY interesting, all with their own set of skills, some with a hint of paranormal that I enjoyed. I loved how they're all so fierce and how even though they've been burned before, they're still more than ready to include Georgiana in their group. And also, Miss Stranje herself sounds like the most awesome of ladies and OMG there's a romance brewing there that's just YES.

And of course there's a romance for Georgiana as well. I could very much get behind the ship, because Sebastian sounds dreamy and they do the banter thing that I love and actually share an interest in science. The only thing that didn't work so well for me is the speed at which their relationship progresses to love. I mean, wow, they haven't even really known each other for a week or so? I get that they've been in some situations together that have the potential to speed up things, but they were just a bit shy of insta-love for me. They did have wonderful chemistry though and there was a moment that had me reading with tears in my eyes, so the feelings were there for me.

I wasn't really impressed with the characterization of Georgiana's parents though, they're a bit cardboard and it felt unrealistic that parents would leave their daughter at a house they think she's going to be tortured. I mean, WTF? But as they're not a big part of the novel, I could get over this.
Of course there's also a villain, Lady Daneska, who seems like a complex character, but I'm not really sure what to make of her yet. There's probably a reason why she's so vile, but for now she just seemed to be evil for the sake of being evil mostly.

I did very much like the backdrop of Napoleon's exile and am very interested in seeing where Kathleen Baldwin takes us with her somewhat alternate history. I'm a bit sorry the sequel won't be from Georgiana's POV, but as I really like the other girls as well, I think this won't be a problem, cause I'm really intrigued by Tess!

My rating: 4 stars

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review of Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly


Title/Author: Seriously Wicked (Seriously #1) by Tina Connolly
Publisher/Date published: Tor Teen, May 5th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: The only thing worse than being a witch is living with one.

Camellia’s adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom’s a seriously wicked witch.

Cam’s used to stopping the witch’s crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose — and into Devon, the cute new boy at school.

Now Cam’s suddenly got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance.

To stop the demon before he destroys Devon’s soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she’s willing to work spells like the witch... will that mean she’s wicked too?

I'm always looking for that next book about witches that will make my heart happy, but a lot of times, they seem to fall flat for me. Luckily, Seriously Wicked does not fall into this category!

There were so many characters for me to like, Cam is smart and strong and sassy and I totally loved her! She's got a sense of humor that I very much appreciate. And it was really fun to read from the daughter of the 'wicked witch''s point of view. I mean, she's SO determined not to be a witch herself and that she doesn't have magic, even though we can all guess that's not exactly true from the start. But she does it with a flair and dodges her mother's somewhat less than orthodox teaching methods the best she can. It was really entertaining!

I actually also liked her mother in all her witchy plotting and creative ways of punishing Cam. And Cam's best friend (who I can't remember the name of at the moment, sorry!) is a true best friend and accepts Cam for who she is and genuinely wants to help her even when there's a whole lot of crazy going on that I could have imagined might make her think she's in over her head. But she stick by Cam and I totally loved her for it.
Also, there's Devon, the love interest who's just really cute. And a sassy demon that I couldn't help have LOLs over, cause demons can only come out once in a while and are therefore still stuck in the Elvis Presley time period with the pelvis shaking and everything.
And a very friendly dragon that I adored!

Basically, this book was just such a breath of fresh air with its lightness and FUN, combined with a plot that was creative and whimsical and just a whole lot of awesome. I LOVED Tina Connolly's storytelling and am very determined to start reading more of her work! I think I have Ironskin sitting on my shelf somewhere, so that shouldn't be problem :)

Guys, this book was super cute and fun and full of witchy goodness! And I just found out it's actually the first book in a series. This could have easily worked as a standalone, but I'm very interested to see what will come next for Cam and everyone!

My rating: 4,5 stars

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review of Novice by Taran Matharu


Title/Author: Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu
Publisher/Date published: Feiwel & Friends, May 5th 2015
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository

Goodreads summary: When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.

So there are a lot of elements that reminded me of different book series/tv series/games in Novice, and I think it will get mixed reactions because of that. It didn't bother me in the slightest and just made me have 'awwww' moments!

Like a lot of fantasy heroes, Fletcher starts out as a normal peasant boy, who doesn't really know where exactly he came from, and then he discovers he's actually a magically gifted person. He's been taken in as an infant by a blacksmith, who has raised him as his own and is basically a truly good person. Then he gets his hands on a mage's book and actually summons a demon, which is the CUTEST EVER. I mean, SERIOUSLY. If you've met Ignatius, you will be squeeing over him along with me. He's basically a combination of Pascal (from Tangled) and Mushu (from Mulan, mostly because of firebreathing options) and I WANT ONE OK? He's awesome. You could just read this for Ignatius alone, but the rest of the book was so much fun as well!

I liked Fletcher, I liked that he's openminded about dwarves and elves and is trying to build bridges and turns out to be a true friend to those close to him. I also like that he's got courage. I mean, he dives headfirst into some potentially dangerous situations because he's trying to save someone and when you encounter stuff like this you really don't have a lot of time to consider your options. I also liked that while he's a quick learner when it comes to training as a mage, but not everything comes naturally to him.

I totally loved the worldbuilding! I mean, all the different types of demons and what they and the mages can do and the whole political system is just YES! And also, there's a magical boarding school, which is one of my favourite things to read about if done well. And in The Novice, it is done well.

So there are recognizable themes from Lord of the Rings, with the whole Elves and Dwarves and Orcs thing, but well, it doesn't bother me, cause I kinda consider LOTR a classic when it comes to the genre and we don't blame authors for having similar themes to Jane Austen's in romance novels either. Also, there's the 'gotta catch 'em all' feeling of Pokémon, with even a demon who's called Vulpid and sounds EXACTLY like Vulpix, which I had a LOL moment over with one of my friends who was also reading it. And there's how the connection to the demons reminded me a bit of His Dark Materials. And also, Harry Potter for obvious reasons.

But seriously, none of that mattered to me, or rather, it did in a GOOD way, because I LOVE all these elements and I felt that there was enough originality for me to totally love Novice. I loved Taran Matharu's writing and breezed through this book! It felt like a breath of fresh air, it was just so much fun to read! This is one series that I'm very excited to continue!
Also: can we just focus on the awesomeness that is the cover for a bit? SO PRETTY!

So basically, I'm saying that if you're like me and love yourself some fantasy novel with magical boarding school and ADORABLE creatures, you should definitely pick this up. Like, now.

My rating: 5 stars